Review: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
It’s the big one. The one we all tried to book for. The one where Heston comes to London. And though we’re sure you’ll have heard a fair bit about Meat Fruit, spit roast pineapples and Savoury Porridge already, do please humour us as we drool over the memories of our lunch.
Knowing that Dinner was always going to be simple, we were anxious of being underwhelmed. After all, what is Heston’s food if it’s not the molecular madness of The Fat Duck? Well, it’s bloody good, actually.
The obligatory Meat Fruit kicked things off with a fanfare and a cheeky wink, with the most unctuously, yet subtly, rich chicken liver parfait we’ve ever tasted donning a thin jelly shell and masquerading as a mandarin. It wasn’t all for show, either. The citrus casing cut through the velvety creaminess in a way that is tempting to liken to a savoury Terry’s Chocolate Orange, though this probably doesn’t do it justice.
Another starter of Savoury Porridge may use the oaty breakfast cereal term loosely, but whatever it was, it was similarly big on flavour with a “green” freshly cut grass taste presiding over melt-in-the-mouth cod cheeks and pickled beetroot, garlic and fennel.
Main courses are comparatively tame. Powdered Duck actually refers to an old fashioned term for curing with salt, rather than the cremated quacker that comes to mind, and most other dishes wouldn’t look too out of place on a gastropub menu these days. This is, no doubt, a nod to Heston’s desire to delve into historic British dishes (slightly ironic location at the Mandarin Oriental, then?), but of course this isn’t gastropub fare. Beef Royal, a slow cooked short rib of Angus comes with smoked anchovy and onion puree and cubes of ox tongue. It’s predictably hearty, wholesome and delicious, but its lip-smacking flavour goes well beyond such descriptions. The taste explosion is probably because when Heston says slow-cooked, he means cooked for three whole days.
Tipsy Cake is the signature dessert, which diners are advised to order in advance to allow for the gradual alcoholic basting of the cream-filled baked brioche. And, we imagine, for a bit of added theatre. It arrives rising triumphantly out of a generous sized porcelain dish, but easily gives up its bottom-of-a-trifle flavour at the command of a spoon. The spit roast pineapple which accompanies it is naturally caramelised, tasting of tropical toffee and gently scented with the wood from the spit.
So, any criticisms? Not really. Perhaps the surroundings are a little sparse and speak too loudly of hotel dining room, but since all eyes are on plates, the open kitchen or – at a push - Hyde Park out the window, it’s not of great concern.
And the price? Tremendous value for the three course lunch at £28. A la carte is closer to double this, and the cheapest bottle of wine is a steep £35, mind. Still, not bad for the quality of food, the top rate service, and the chance to say you’ve eaten at Heston’s.
Could Giles Coren be right to brand it the “best new restaurant in the world”? We like to think so.
Dinner is in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel at 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA (map).
Last Updated 09 February 2011